Gardens and Landscapes

Gardens and Landscapes Conservation

English Heritage looks after many nationally important historic gardens and landscapes, from the manicured English gardens at Wrest Park to the wild meadows at Down House. Their conservation covers a range of responsibilities including protection from pests and pesticides, managing the impacts of climate change, conserving rare plants, and historical and archaeological research.

Learn about some of the different aspects of our gardens conservation work and explore our most recent and ongoing projects to protect the gardens and landscapes in our care.

 

What we do

Looking after historic parks and gardens can be complex. The protection and conservation of historic designs and features have to be carefully balanced against the needs of visitors, wildlife and the conservation of rare historic plants. Read more about some of the challenges faced by our gardens teams and the key areas of our conservation work.

The Kitchen Garden at Audley End contains a large collection of historic fruit cultivars, some dating from the 17th century

Caring for Plant Collections

English Heritage cares for many significant and historic plants and plant collections. Some of the plants are among the earliest introductions of that species in the UK. Others are intrinsically linked with historic events or people, such as those at Down House, the family home of Charles Darwin where he developed his ground-breaking theories.

We also conserve collections of rare historic plants, such as fruit cultivars and over 3,000 veteran trees. At Marble Hill, for example, we care for a Black Walnut which has been recorded as the third largest in the country and is about 300 years old. These important collections often depend on conserving the unique microclimates that are vital to their survival.

Canada Geese, seen here at Audley End, can damage lawns and other vegetation, as well as being aggressive towards people during the breeding season
© Marianne Majerus

Managing Threats

Threats from animals, pests, diseases and invasive plant species are some of the many challenges we face when conserving our historic gardens and landscapes. Some of these threats are thought to be the result of increased global trade as well as climate change with diseases introduced via infected plant material or human transfer, or spread naturally, for example by wind, water or wildlife. 

The consequences of climate change are already noticeable in many historic gardens, from increased carbon dioxide levels to average temperature changes and more frequent extreme weather. These changes affect not only historic planting but also visitor numbers and needs, perhaps resulting in more wear and tear or alterations to visitor facilities and routes due to changes in the prevailing weather conditions. We therefore monitor the effects of climate change in our gardens and landscapes, and also limit the use of peat and manage green waste sustainably wherever possible.

The Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle, recreated in 2009, was the result of detailed research on historic designs and plants

Research

Detailed historical research enables us to restore historic designs and introduce appropriate historic plants. Our research methods include landscape and geophysical surveys, aerial photography, and remote sensing technology as well as excavation and the study of environmental archaeological evidence.

At Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, for example, detailed historical and archaeological research was the focus of the restoration of a 17th-century style garden. The garden planting was based on the advice of 17th-century garden writers such as John Gerard and John Parkinson in his book Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (1629).

Where historical evidence is lacking, new designs may be appropriate, such as those created for our Contemporary Heritage Gardens project. These designs had to be in keeping with the context of each historic property but also present the best of contemporary design and set standards of design for future heritage.

A female gardener with hair in a ponytail crouches on a pathway, working between two richly-planted flower beds

Work in our gardens

Like the idea of working in some of the country's most beautiful and historic gardens? From planting Arts and Crafts beds to maintaining endangered wildflower meadows, working in our gardens team is full of variety and opportunity. 

Learn more about the people who work in our gardens and the kinds of activities we do to preserve these amazing cultural heritage sites. 

Read more about the roles in our gardens team

Explore More

  • Visit our Gardens

    Find beautiful gardens to visit and learn more about the history of gardens through the ages.

  • Gardens Timeline

    Explore how garden and landscape design has evolved in England from the Romans to the 20th century. 

  • Weeding Women: Shaping England's Gardens

    Explore the unsung role of ‘weeding women’ in the history of English gardens, and the difficulties of tracing their stories.

  • Conservation

    Learn more about how our experts conserve and maintain over 400 historic buildings and monuments, their associated gardens and landscapes, and half a million artefacts.

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